Bradford Of Plymouth Plantation Essay

Born of substantial yeomen in Yorkshire, England, Bradford expressed his nonconformist religious sensibilities in his early teens and joined the famed Separatist church in Scrooby at the age of seventeen. In 1609 he immigrated with the congregation, led by John Robinson, to the Netherlands. For the next eleven years he and his fellow religious dissenters lived in Leyden until their fear of assimilation into Dutch culture prompted them to embark on the Mayflower for the voyage to North America.

Did You Know?

William Bradford's descendants include Noah Webster, Julia Child and Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist.

The Pilgrims arrived in what became Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 with a large number of non-Separatist settlers. Before disembarking, the congregation drew up the first New World social contract, the Mayflower Compact, which all the male settlers signed.

Bradford served thirty one-year terms as governor of the fledgling colony between 1622 and 1656. He enjoyed remarkable discretionary powers as chief magistrate, acting as high judge and treasurer as well as presiding over the deliberations of the General Court, the legislature of the community. In 1636 he helped draft the colony’s legal code. Under his guidance Plymouth never became a Bible commonwealth like its larger and more influential neighbor, the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Relatively tolerant of dissent, the Plymouth settlers did not restrict the franchise or other civic privileges to church members. The Plymouth churches were overwhelmingly Congregationalist and Separatist in form, but Presbyterians like William Vassal and renegades like Roger Williams resided in the colony without being pressured to conform to the majority’s religious convictions.

After a brief experiment with the “common course,” a sort of primitive agrarian communism, the colony quickly centered around private subsistence agriculture. This was facilitated by Bradford’s decision to distribute land among all the settlers, not just members of the company. In 1627 he and four others assumed the colony’s debt to the merchant adventurers who had helped finance their immigration in return for a monopoly of the fur trading and fishing industries. Owing to some malfeasance on the part of their English mercantile factors and the decline of the fur trade, Bradford and his colleagues were unable to retire this debt until 1648, and then only at great personal expense.

Around 1630 Bradford began to compile his two-volume Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, one of the most important early chronicles of the settlement of New England. Bradford’s history was singular in its tendency to separate religious from secular concerns. Unlike similar tracts from orthodox Massachusetts Bay, Bradford did not interpret temporal affairs as the inevitable unfolding of God’s providential plan. Lacking the dogmatic temper and religious enthusiasm of the Puritans of the Great Migration, Bradford steered a middle course for Plymouth Colony between the Holy Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the tolerant secular community of Rhode Island.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Summary: Analyzes Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford. Discusses the major theme of religion and how God helped people overcome obstacles through faith.


In historical accounts the first American stories derived from Puritan writings. Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford is important literature because it tells the story of immigrants, which is still common today. The American dream, American government, American values, and American ideologies were based on the Puritans beliefs and the struggles they went through for the American Dream. Convincing future generations of the struggles and achievements of Puritans was the purpose of William Bradford for writing Of Plymouth Plantation. In Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the theme of religion implies how God can help people overcome tough obstacles if people keep faith in him.

William Bradford revealed how Puritans could overcome obstacles in many quotes in this story. "Being thus arrived in good harbor, and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who brought them over the vast and...

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This section contains 540 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)

View a FREE sample

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